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'Why now?': Burnaby Board of Trade questions quick implementation of sick leave law

Province announced today (Nov. 24) workers will be eligible for a minimum of five paid sick days starting in January of 2022
Burnaby Board of Trade President and CEO Paul Holden.

The Burnaby Board of Trade is questioning the province's decision to implement a new paid sick leave law by January of 2022. 

Labour Minister Harry Bains announced Wednesday (Nov. 24) that British Columbian employees will entitled to five days of paid sick leave each year starting in January. 

“Five days is a sustainable solution given the challenges faced by many sectors,” he said, adding businesses will benefit from increased productivity and higher rates of retention.

“I want to make it clear that this is not optional, this is the law.”

This past May, the province instituted three days of paid sick leave, but only on a temporary basis. 

The temporary program, which provides employers with a maximum $200 reimbursement, is set to expire December 31, 2021.

The government began stakeholder consultations earlier this year, ultimately developing three options to cover the minimum number of paid sick days for British Columbians: three, five or 10 days.

Shortly after today's announcement, the Burnaby Board of Trade issued a statement, questioning the rapid timing of the new law. 

The board says they met with Bains and recommended delaying the implementation date of January 1, 2022, while limiting the number of days given to no more than three. 

They also told Bains that the cost should be mitigated on employers, based on concern with the negative impacts on Burnaby's business community. 

“The biggest question in our minds is ‘Why now?’,” Burnaby Board of Trade President and CEO Paul Holden said in a news release. 

"We already have 3 days of paid leave provided as part of the COVID-19 response, so it is unclear why there needed to be a rush to implement a permanent requirement like this, especially given the challenges businesses have faced over the pandemic.”

The board said in its submission to the Ministry of Labour, they argued that it wasn't the appropriate time to add a new cost on businesses after struggles during COVID-19 and the challenges with access to labour, rising inflation and disruptions of supply chains. 

It also stated it shouldn't include part-time or casual workers and come with corresponding offsets to other business codes. 

“While we are happy the government stopped short of mandating 10 days, the length of this leave, extending it fully to part-time and casual workers, and offering no help with mitigating the inevitable costs on businesses left us disappointed," Holden added.

- with files from Tyler Orton, Business In Vancouver

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